Federal appeals court won’t hear Alaska absentee-ballot lawsuit before November election

The federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will not hear an Alaska elections lawsuit before the Nov. 3 general election, likely eliminating any chance that a judge will require the state to send absentee ballot request forms to all voters ahead of the election.

Any Alaskan can vote absentee by mail, but they must request permission first. The state has an online application form available.

The state sent paper forms to Alaskans 65 and older, but the Disability Law Center of Alaska and several other plaintiffs sued, arguing that the age limit was discriminatory. They sought an order requiring the state to send paper forms to all Alaskans.

That request was denied by an Alaska district court judge, and on Tuesday, the federal appeals court also denied a request for an emergency order ahead of the election.

An attorney representing the Disability Law Center said plaintiffs could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but there is no guarantee the court would hear the case, let alone issue an order in time for the election.

“We disagree with the decision and believe all Alaskans should be given an equal opportunity to vote absentee,” said the attorney, Sam Gottstein.

Though the state is not mass-mailing additional paper forms, a third-party group, the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Voter Information, is doing so. The Division of Elections is also planning to send an email reminder about the online form to all Alaskans registered with MyAlaska, the state service also used for Permanent Fund dividend applications.


One other voting lawsuit remains in the courts. That suit challenges the state’s two-signature requirement for completed absentee ballots. Attorneys are scheduled to appear before a state judge on Oct. 1, according to online court records.

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James Brooks

James Brooks was a Juneau-based reporter for the ADN from 2018 to May 2022.